I have always preferred the gooey side of macaroni and cheese. I don’t get that excited about crunchy pasta bits and I don’t see the point in breadcrumb toppings. I married into a Ritz cracker topping family, which is ok. They make it in a really deep dish so I can scoop from the bottom anyways.

But now I no longer have to compromise. I hold the power to create gooey, cheesy macaroni on the stovetop. The cheese quantity is obscene and I, on fact, recommended 1.5-2 times the pasta from the original recipe. I found the original almost like cheese soup.

I can think of few things as comforting. I hope you find some comfort in it too.

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You know, dough

Since early on in the pandemic, every Friday has been Pizza Friday. It’s fun to devise new toppings. This week I wanted something a little different. I’ve been craving focaccia. I wasn’t sure it would be filling enough but I was very happy to be wrong.

I started thinking about focaccia several weeks ago because I’m planning a trip to Italy. An imaginary trip. Little man’s first trip to Italy, whenever it may be. But where to take him? There are so many beautiful places and so many things I’d like him to experience. Currently, I’m thinking the beach, probably in Liguria.

I remember a summer vacation to Diano Marina. Every day, we’d eat hot focaccia, ugly tomatoes, and perfect cantelope for lunch. I learned about olives and olive paste. We rented a Surrey bike and a jet ski. It was sunny and beautiful and glamorous.

Life certainly isn’t like that now. I’m recapturing a little of that memory with this recipe.

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Who would have thought kale could be luxurious? It’s healthy, sure. But what about decadent, elegant, and delicious?

My CSA is nearly out of kale, which is a shame. I could have been making this much more often and everyone would have been happy. By weight, it’s more kale than pasta. Don’t let that put you off!

A quick blanch of kale and garlic go into the food processor or blender with olive oil and Parmesan. What emerges is a glorious, green sauce that beats most basil pestos.

Jamie used spaghetti but I thought the radiatori shape would be just right. I’d recommend any twisty shape to really hold the sauce.

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The best cake…ever?

It was Mr. F’s birthday last weekend which meant we needed a cake.

I let him choose from my new cookbook, BraveTart. He landed on the devil’s food cake but asked for a peanut butter upgrade. I was happy to comply!

I found a recipe for a peanut butter Italian meringue frosting which should be stable even in the heat of July. Strangely enough, I wasn’t able to find any unflavored gelatin. I went to 4 different stores! Peanut butter buttercream to save the day. It’s an easy frosting that is sweet but not overly so.

The reaction from the crowd: this was the best birthday cake he has every had! The little man aggressively agreed. Hopefully, since I can’t share this cake in person, you can make it for yourselves and enjoy the same bliss!

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And I’m back!

Nothing like cake to pull you out of the darkness. It hasn’t been a great few weeks. Our central air has been replaced, which is a godsend. But as the situation around the country worsens, I’m plagued with anxiety.

We visited my in-laws for a socially distant lunch on the 4th. It was strange but good. One of the highlights was this apparently famous plum cake. I haven’t baked a lot with plums and didn’t have high expectations for this.

The plums I used were bland and went from rock hard to squishy overnight. And yet, the cake found the best in them. The tart skins contrasted the crunchy sugar crust. The tender flesh melded into the fluffy cake. It was a home run!

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Breaking point

Last week was bad. Our central air died and needs to be replaced. The roof in our sunroom is leaking. Academia is more uncertain than ever, especially for small schools such as mine. I haven’t been sleeping much/well because of the heat and have slept through my alarm twice.

Food hasn’t been as interesting either. It’s hard to get excited about anything. I have some things I want to cook or eat but don’t have all the ingredients. Or, I have other ingredients that need using up. Or, I don’t have time to make anything that complicated.

I’d love some fresh pasta. I’ve been watching Emiko Davies in envy as her two of adorable daughters twist out tiny pasta shapes in beautiful Tuscany. I’m stuck in the unglamorous Philly suburbs with a teething 1 year old who has developed opinions. While he is pro pasta, he is not pro me doing anything without him.

Fortunately, this pork loin takes about 15 minutes to assemble and make 3 meals for the two of us. I’ll take that as a win.

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Heating up

I believe my mom started cooking this from a Colorado junior league cookbook. However, this doesn’t need much of a recipe.

It’s one of those recipes that are perfect to keep in your back pocket. They come together quickly. The ingredients are all long lasting. It is a complete meal with little clean up.

Our A/C unit seems like it is ready to lick the bucket. This recipe doesn’t require much stove time so I don’t have to worry about heating up the house. Hope you enjoy as much as we do but without the cooling issues!

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Lobster pot pie

Lobster pot pie was never something really on my radar. It’s not the kind of thing I would order at a restaurant. If I’m eating lobster, I want a lobster roll. I wouldn’t consider making it because of the potential wasted money and the work involved.

But this is a funny time. With nothing else going on, a Memorial Day sale on lobster caught our eye. I’m not squeamish about cooking them. Pre-baby, we used to have them a couple times every summer. But with the little man, we don’t have time to leisurely eat something that messy.

We cooked the lobsters in the morning and cleaned them during the baby’s nap. One lobster made two lobster rolls, a satisfying lunch. But what to do with the other half? Ina Garten to the rescue.

She seems to make all sorts of things with lobster! Cobb salad, Mac n cheese, potato salad. This pot pie was incredible. The crust was a thing of beauty, even if a little delicate to roll out. The lobster flavored the filing beautifully, even without fish stock or clam juice.

I can’t wait to have company so I have a good reason to make it again. It is the elegant homely affair you would expect the Barefoot Contessa to serve.

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Quick chili

I love corn muffins, especially ones with corn kernels. However, I have yet to find a satisfactory recipe. Too many are dry and bland. The moist ones seem to rely on an unholy amount of fat and sugar. So I buy corn muffins and ignore the nutrition label.

With corn muffins, you basically have to make chili. I don’t be pretend to have an authentic recipe. It has beans for heaven’s sake! However, it is quick and tasty. That sounds like a weeknight friendly dinner to me.

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Hidden gems

This recipe is not the one I expected to post. When I was bookmarking my new Jamie Olive cookbook, I was struck by a beautiful photo for Empire Chicken. It was served with potatoes and a sauce, but the chicken was the star.

The romance quickly lost its bloom. There were a lot of steps and ingredients. It seemed like I had to dirty every kitchen tool I own. Many of the directions seemed insane. For example, Jamie would have you place the chicken directly on your oven rack and place a roasting pan underneath to catch drippings. Why not using a roasting rack, or cooling rack, or, better yet, the potatoes which you are cooking in the oven at the same time?!

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